Frequently when I do premarital counseling, the husband-to-be mentions that he’s heard Ephesians 5:23, “Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord,” somewhere along the line. Though they usually communicate the idea without citing chapter and verse. The comment goes something like this, “Doesn’t it say somewhere in the Bible that she has to obey me?”
I cherish that moment because it allows me to lead them on to verses 25 to 27. I particularly focus on verse 25. When my wife and I had our premarital counseling I heard John MacArthur’s excellent exposition on this text in his old tape series, “The Divine Pattern for Marriage”.
What does it mean for husbands to love their wives as Christ loved the church?
It’s to be a sacrificial love, that’s for sure. Beyond that, this text places the special burden of reconciliation on husbands within the marriage relationship. The idea is clearly stated by the Apostle John in 1 John 4:10, “In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins.”
When we apply this verse to marriage, combining it with our text from Ephesians 5, it means the responsibility of reconciliation falls to husbands. If God had waited for lost humanity to be the first to say we were sorry for our sin and ask His for forgiveness before He sent Christ, we’d still be waiting for Jesus to arrive. That was not going to happen. In like manner I have heard husbands say that they have been hurt by their spouse. Something was said or done, and they are waiting for her to apologize to restore the relationship. Yet God calls on Christian husbands to be leaders in forgiveness and restoration. We show our Christ-like love, honor God, and honor our wives when we take the initiative to remove any discord in our marriages.
Lastly, this godly response fulfills 1 Peter 3:7, “Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered.”
Being Christ-like in loving our wives and taking the lead in restoration will go a long way toward keeping our marriages strong.